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Thursday , 15 April 2021

Lac La Biche County to talk masks, continues budget discussions

The discussion of masking in Lac La Biche County will continue on Tuesday after being tabled at the Nov. 24 council meeting to see what the province had planned.

As of the province’s Nov. 24 COVID-19 update, masks are mandatory in places of worship and all indoor workplaces in Edmonton and Calgary, but are still not required across the province unless otherwise specified by the municipality, employer, or business.

According to Mayor Omer Moghrabi, the council has always taken their lead from the province and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

“I listened to it numerous times to try to find out where we fit. And I think at the end of the day, we’ll be discussing it again on Tuesday,” said Moghrabi.

He said if Lac La Biche were to pass a bylaw, it would encompass the whole county and be enforceable by the community peace officers.

“That’s a decision that will be made by council as a whole. And bylaws require three readings and usually a bit of a break between the two,” said Moghrabi.

Asked if a policy like what has been introduced in neighbouring communities like St. Paul might be more palatable because it could be in place quicker than a bylaw, Moghrabi said the challenge is that a policy does not have the same “bite” that a bylaw does when it comes to enforcement.

To mandate or not to mandate masks in Lac La Biche resumes when council meets on Dec. 1.

Budget 2021

The 2021 budget is still a work in progress according to Lac La Biche County Mayor Omer Moghrabi.

“It has been going very well. We were having good frank discussions. There haven’t been any fist fights or name calling,” said Moghrabi.

While the county is planning for reduced grants from the province and continued downloading of costs to municipalities, Moghrabi said at this time they do not expect to see a tax increase.

“We’ve been in a slump for six years. We have people that are out of work, or been unable to work because of the COVID-19. Again, that would be a council decision. But if you’re asking for my personal opinion on this, this would not be the time for a tax increase. I can see us doing some pull backs if we have to,” said Moghrabi.

Major capital projects still on the books for 2021 include the Main Street of Lac La Biche and repairs to the water and sewer system in Plamondon, which according to Moghrabi is 67 years old.

“Driving through our main street is like driving through an obstacle course. So we got to do the underground. That’s one thing and we also want to make sure we do this streetscaping that’s one of the things we’re going to work on,” said Moghrabi.

According to the proposed 2021 budget document, the water and sewer rehabilitation and revitalization on Main St in Lac La Biche is projected to cost $6 million.

The county also plans to build an aquatic centre with the help of a grant received from the province.

Waste Management Review

The County of Lac La Biche is conducting a complete review of their waste management services to find opportunities for improvement. In discussion at council on Nov. 24, it was suggested they may expand their service to include collection of grass clippings and other organic material or to extend curbside pick up to some more of the homes and communities within the county.

“I think our levels compared to many communities is we rate very well,” said Mayor Omer Moghrabi.

One challenge to expanding curbside pick up service is the quality of the roads and the weight of the garbage trucks.

“They should take a lot of the weight of the bigger trucks but if we can also have the contractor use smaller trucks to try to preserve our infrastructure will do that. And so we’ll be keeping an eye on that as we expand and even the ones we have now. If you go to a lot of the subdivisions there isn’t curbs it’s just GMS paved road,” said Moghrabi.

About Meredith Kerr

Meredith Kerr moved to St. Paul for a career in journalism and morning radio in 2014 expecting to stay for six months to a year. Since then, she has put down roots in the form of a husband, a mortgage, two babies, and a poorly behaved dog. She continues to work as a reporter until such time as she finishes her book and becomes fabulously wealthy from the royalties. Meredith also serves as a member at large on the St. Paul Library Board and volunteers as a Beaver leader for the 1st St. Paul Scout Group.